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November 17, 1999 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-17

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-T1~-

,/STATE

The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, November 17, 1999 - 7

Students use weekends
By Tiffany Maggard much I have, and do take for grated," residents ofthe Taylor Home will be left
Daily Staf Reporter Wubishet said. without homes.
One group of University students Documentary Works members said Documentary Works interacts with
have left campus most weekends this they hope to use the films to expose the home's children by encouraging
semester, taking with them only a video other young adults to the reality that them to write poetry asa creative means
camerae, their compassion and their socio-economic stratification than to express themselves and to enlighten
doe to acknowledge the nation's most University students associate others about their community life. The
di rse societal framework. with. group will use the poetry as a paradigm
Where they travel is far removed The Chicago project is the group's through which the documentary will
from the atmosphere in Ann Arbor. The very first attempt at achieving its goals. explain the level of poverty in the Taylor
group lkraves the drug- and gang-infest- LSA senior Jennifer Yang describes Home.
ed areaof a south Chicago housing pro- the Taylor Home in Chicago as a whole Yang said Documentary Works hopes
ect, in an effort to raise socio-econom- different realm of living. that the poetry also will "give the chil-
c awareness. "It's really just a different world - dren insight at a more artistic level -
The group, Documentary.Works, has it's complete poverty. You can see that something to give them a greater sense
seen Chicago bound each weekend the kids are so enthusiastic about learn- of perspective on language and the
ince October to explore living condi- ing, but they just don't have the arts."
ions in Chicago's Robert Taylor Home, resources they need," Yang said. But where Documentary Works
tation's largest housing project.." Many children between the ages of members reach these children is not in
rmversity alum Gizachew Wubishet eight and 15 take refuge in the Boys and the safe haven provided by the commu-
md LSA junior Phillip Reese, formed Girls Program at the Taylor Home after nity center, but the Boys and Girls
he student group earlier this year. school to escape the threat of gangs and Program.
Their goal was to bring students from drugs that surround them. Itsis a place The students face gang members and
il areas of the University together to where they can work on homework and drug pushers who they said govern the
locument various ways of life via com- engage in constructive social and learn- activities that go on within their com-
nunity service. This makes the project ing activities. pound and regulate all who enter and
dual effort - to serve the community But this safe haven will not be around exist. Even police shy away from this
nd to understand the variability of much longer. Wubishet said the environment, leaving gang members to
ocio-economic stratification. Chicago Housing Authority is in the act as its only "guards,"Yang said.
*st working with these kids in this process of demolishing the housing "Gang members rule the project -
ommunity that is so far removed from project. Although the city's remodeling literally,"Yang said, "You can't go to the
knn Arbor makes me realize just how will give it economic advantage, the community center after 5 p.m. - that's

to make documentaiy

when death sets in."
These "guards," though intimidating
as they may be, are some of
Documentary Works' most important
sources of information in their scrutiny
of life in the projects. The students have
formed respectable relationships with
the gang members and drug dealers.
The students have documented the lives
of these members of the community
and their concerns for the future -
when they will be forced to give up
what little they have now, for virtually
nothing at all when the housing project
is demolished.
"The interests of these people needs
to be recognized," said LSA senior
Kristin Wright, a student working on
the project. "We need to understand the
urban experiences and gangs and how
they co-exist in the ghetto and share this
information with other people."
The Taylor Home was built to com-
pensate for the large poverty-stricken
black population that emerged in
Chicago in the 1960s and '70s, when
the white middle-class moved in mass
to the suburbs.
Today, the area in Chicago's south
side is a place of extreme poverty,
Documentary Works members said.
Many buildings are rat-infested, eleva-

tors reek of urine and don't function,
refrigerators are no bigger than those in
most college housing and have no
freezers. If maintenance problems arise,
rarely does anyone show up to fix them
because the housing project is too dan-
gerous for outsiders.
"There was a baby boy and a rat was
literally eating his face," Yang said,
"Even though the baby's mother was
extremely neat and clean, there was a
hole in their apartment and the rat got in
and began eating his face where a piece
of food had gotten stuck."
Wubishet also recounted shocking
images of poverty, far from what most
University students have seen.
"This community is ravaged," he
said. "These kids are not growing up
like most kids that go to the University
of Michigan."
Documentary Works hopes to com-
plete its project by March. Eventually,
they want to share their work with stu-
dents at other universities and with high
school students in metro Detroit.
"I want to stress the importance of
this project to social leaming'" Yang
said. "It's so important to have a grasp
of what's going on in society - our
University has so much potential
because of the diversity that we have.

Hopefully this project will help people
grow in their knowledge of society -
that's a big part of our goal."
Funding for Documentary Works
project with the Taylor Home comes in
part from the Michigan Student
Assembly Community Service
Commission. CSC Chair Michael
Masters, an LSA junior, said the assem-
bly was blown away by the amount of
initiative, work and responsibility that
Documentary Works has demonstrated
with the Chicago project.
"I'm completely blown away by the
fact that these kids are out there every
weekend in this area that is completely
decrepit, just because they want to
make a difference," Masters said.
Speaking on behalf of the commis-
sion, Masters said the efforts of those
involved in Documentary Works will
contribute both to the citizens who live
in the project and to the individuals who
are blind to this level of poverty.
"They're going into an area that has
been so neglected by most people, and
they've done it not only with a desire
to help the kids in this environment but
to learn from them. They are taking
what they are learning from these kids
and bringing it back to us," Masters
said.

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camera ready ad: Nov. 23
typed copy ad: Nov. 22
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